Ten Tips to Excelling on Your Interview

The interview does not have to be a daunting step in your journey to getting into medical school or to getting that desired job. With the appropriate preparation, you can face it with confidence and boldness, knowing that you have worked hard and have the ability to succeed!

The medical school interview has evolved in recent years from the more traditional one person interview to an amalgamated set of interviews known as the multiple-mini-interview (MMI). This involves a series of about 10 interview stations, 10 minutes each in length with different interviewers. The format of each interview can consist of traditional interview questions, role-play (acting), logic/calculation questions, writing, team-work (collaboration) and more. You can read more about the history and format of the MMI.

The main purpose of this post is to give you some tips to prepare for the MMI and how to handle yourself on the big interview day. Many of these tips apply to other interview formats:

  1. Practice, practice, practice: This is the most important way to prepare and you can start months in advance before you even receive an interview invite. I started with just one question a day (there are plenty of sample questions online). Once I received an interview invitation, I ramped up my practice to about 2-3 questions per day.  I also recorded myself to evaluate my body language, tone of voice and to obtain feedback from others. Practicing in front of the mirror, on Skype, or in person with people from different backgrounds will also get you used to formulating your thoughts quickly even when faced with unfamiliar material. Constructive criticism from those you practice with is vital for improving your line of thinking and delivery. Practice under timed conditions so that you get used to speaking under pressure and learn how to stick within the time limits. A solid foundation of interview preparation will give you more confidence on the big day.

    job-interview
    Image courtesy of grafhamwalbancke.com
  2. Be yourself: I realized the importance of this particularly with role-play questions. Although there is some level of acting required, it is important to react to the situation the way you normally would, in keeping with your personality, and not pretend to be something you are not. It will be very obvious if you are not being authentic.
  3. Be confident: I went into my interview knowing I had prepared and worked hard. I was in a positive frame of mind, confident that there was no room to doubt my abilities. Enter the room with a smile and give a firm handshake. Recognize how hard you have worked and how far you have come in obtaining an interview. Keep that momentum going!
  4. Be clear and concise: In my view, less-is-more when it comes to an interview. Meandering and rambling speech will make it difficult to bring your points across. Try to keep your response relatively short and to the point (about 2-3 minutes in total and then allow time for follow-up questions).
  5. Check your body language and attire: This may seem like a no-brainer but you would be surprised by the things we do with our hands, face and body when we are talking. During one of my practice sessions, I realized that I tap my feet repeatedly, sometimes roll my eyes and clench my hands. Evaluate your body language and make adjustments if anything seems inappropriate or distracting. Remember to maintain eye-contact with your interviewer or role-play partner and maintain good posture. Ensure that you are dressed appropriately.
  6. Answer the question: You will have about 2 minutes to read and absorb each question on the MMI. Make sure you have noted the salient points of the question, that you answer what is being asked and do not go off on a tangent. Only interject personal experiences if it is relevant to the question.

    job interview 2
    Image courtesy of careerealism.com
  7. Listen attentively: It can be tempting to want to talk non-stop during the interview particularly on the MMI where you only have a few minutes to make an impression on each interviewer. However, being a good listener is also an important skill. You can demonstrate this during role-play scenarios by pausing at appropriate moments to allow the other person to speak and by asking questions to stimulate conversation.
  8. Explain your thought process: For logic questions, explain your line of thinking as you go along rather than waiting to find the solution in your mind before presenting it. Even if you run out of time or do not arrive at the correct answer, you will have at least demonstrated how you think and tackle problems.
  9. Be engaged: Even if you are unsure of how to answer a question, be enthusiastic and engaged with your interviewer. Your passion will come across in your tone of voice and body language. In role-play scenarios, imagine that this is a real situation and throw yourself into the role.
  10. Have fun and don’t dwell: At the end of each interview station, don’t dwell on how you could have done it better but forget about it and move on to the next station with a clear, fresh mind. One station has no bearing on the next station. (Personally, I felt that I fumbled two stations but felt fairly confident about the rest). I have to say that the MMI was the most fun and challenging interview I have ever done. It really stretched me! Try to remember that although the interview is an important part of getting into medical school, you can also relax and enjoy the day through the different scenarios and the people you will meet. I made some great friends and was very inspired by the people I met on interview day.

Whether it is for school or a desired job, many of the above tips will be applicable in different contexts. I hope these tips help you feel more prepared and confident for your interview day. You can do it! If you have further questions, feel free to contact me. I would be happy to help.

Rising from a Stumbling Block

I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise” Abraham Lincoln

When working towards a goal, there will be moments when you may hit a stumbling block. I had a moment like this last Friday when I learned that one of the medical schools I had applied to sent out their interview invites…but I did not receive an invitation. There were only 5 spots available at this medical school for an out-of-province applicant like me. Still, I was really hoping to get a positive response from this school.

I haven’t officially received a rejection and there is still hope that an invitation could come if someone else declines their interview. But somehow the news hit me harder than I expected. In fact, it felt like I hit a brick wall and my confidence in my abilities plummeted.  I decided that I had to tackle my state of mind and not let myself get into a downward spiral of negativity. Obstacles will come our way to test us and when they do, we have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and keep going.

My brother encouraged me with these words, “Tomorrow is a new day and you are blessed…Let’s keep going until we find out where we’re sending you to become a doctor!” and my husband said, “This is not the end…you will get where you are meant to be.” 

I will now have to wait until January for news from the other medical schools I applied to. The wait feels painstakingly slow sometimes but I know that I just have to be patient. My prayer has always been that we will end up at the right place for my family and I to flourish.

It’s not always easy to talk about our obstacles and challenges, but it can really help to tap into our support network to give us encouragement when we feel that we are running out of steam. Rejection or failure can be such a discouraging feeling, but it is not the end. It is only the beginning of another chance to find the path to success.

So don’t give up, don’t give in to the voices in your head telling you that you cannot do it. You can! Don’t be afraid to talk about your struggles. We need others to help us get back on track and get our eyes fixed on the prize. Whatever your goals may be, don’t let the amount of time it is taking discourage you from continuing. You will get there eventually and it will be worth every effort you put in!

We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated” Maya Angelou

Image courtesy of powerlisting.wikia.com
Image courtesy of powerlisting.wikia.com

The Medical School Journey Continues…A Family Adventure!

“Mummy, is this the paper that will help you become a doctor?”

My son Caleb had discovered my stack of practice interview questions on the dining room table. The cover sheet had a picture of a stethoscope on it. I don’t know how he made the connection but it was a powerful moment for me as I contemplated the fact that my son is now old enough to understand that I am pursuing a dream to become a physician.

“You’re right Caleb.  I don’t have an interview yet but mummy has decided to start practicing early. Either way, it’s fun and gets my mind whirring!”

No matter where this med school journey takes us, even if we have to move, I’m so grateful and excited to be facing this with my family. My husband continually amazes me with his unwavering support. He wants to test me on at least one interview question a day. Last night, after a long day at work, he still managed to muster some energy to practice some interview questions with me. He didn’t go easy on me! When I was tempted to giggle, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “pretend this is the real interview day, no joking around!”

So here’s to a new phase of the medical school journey. It will be some months before I know if I have received an interview invite. But no matter the outcome, I’m enjoying the process, especially having family go through this with me! It really feels like an adventure!

Image courtesy of iosphere from freedigitalphotos.net
Image courtesy of iosphere from freedigitalphotos.net